I am a citizen of Canada.
I came to Canada in 1998.
I have been living in Ottawa since 2006.
Ottawa is where I pay my taxes.
I am uncomfortable in my skin because things have been happening here in Ottawa lately that do not reflect my values. I am always feeling like a fish unaccepted by the water it calls home.
Take the recent case that has seen two Ottawa City Councillors get into trouble. It all has to do with what the two politicians are calling “election expense gaffes” and “clerical errors”. But the public prosecutor and the tax payers think that what happened may be more than expense gaffes and clerical errors.
Here are the broad outlines of the story. In retiring his expense account for the 2010 election, one of the two Councillors reported that he had no election deficit whereas he was $5, 121 in the red. In other words, he had overspent on election by about six thousand dollars and was trying to cover it up (or failed to report that deficit due to “clerical errors” as he claims). The other Councillor in trouble has a slightly different story. Someone on his campaign team failed to report a $100 nomination fee refund as income and his campaign team as whole misreported a $1,754 bookkeeping fee.
The newspapers are reporting that the electoral officer of Elections Canada – the body in charge of elections in this country – must decide whether to accept the explanations of these Councillors that they made an honest mistake or whether to prosecute them for fraud and corruption.
Because we are dealing with tax payer dollars and tax payers tend not to joke with how public officers spend their money in this country, the Councillors will in all likelihood be prosecuted.
And this is why I have nearly reached the conclusion that Canada is not the place for me. This is why I am seriously considering renouncing my citizenship and moving elsewhere. My values are at odds with the values of this country. I feel very embarrassed that the capital city of a major Western country is disturbing the peace of the rest of the world for corruption figures of less than ten thousand dollars. One of the Councillors even has somebody on his team being investigated for one hundred dollars!
These are not my values. When I say I care about my tax dollars, I mean that only “clerical errors” or “election expense gaffes” of half a billion dollars and above should cause concern and be investigated. If Canada is not prepared to embrace my values and improve on her standards of what constitutes corruption that should reasonably elicit outrage, I don’t see what I am doing here. It is a violation of my right to sleep and peace to be disturbed whenever a politician cannot account for one hundred dollars.
After nearly two decades in this country, another thing I still don’t understand is why politicians must retire campaign expense funds after an election. Retirement of campaign funds means that a thorough independent audit of campaign expenditure must be undertaken. How much did a campaign raise? How was it raised? How was it spent? Were campaign finance laws adhered to? What is the account balance of the campaign?
People here treat campaign expense audits as a right. They even act like they have the right to know. That, also, is contrary to my values. I don’t think I can ever get used to it. It is better to renounce my citizenship than being made to feel that anybody owes me any explanations as to how they raised and spent their campaign funds.
I also do not like the fact that everybody is treating the investigation of the two Ottawa Councillors as a straightforward case of institutions and process.
Nobody has risen up to defend them in public. Nobody has carried posters to support them. Nobody has threatened Elections Canada with doomsday scenarios should the two Councillors be prosecuted for corruption. What if they are being witch hunted because they do not belong to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s political party? Would they have been investigated at all if they had donated the disputed funds to Prime Minister Trudeau’s campaign? Are the two Councillors Christians? Are they Muslims? What is their ethnicity? Are they the only ones who have had “clerical errors” and “election expense gaffes” in the political history of Canada? Why single them out for persecution? Why now? Why not extend the investigation of financial wrongdoing to the formation of the Federal Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867? Is that not the only way to ensure impartiality?
These are the kinds of questions that inform my world and my values. By not asking these kinds of questions, Canadians are being hostile to me. They are telling me that my values don’t count. They are rejecting who I am. I need to move to a country where I’d feel at home. Can you suggest a country where my values would not make me a minority?